28 Aug 2014
Sometimes a food project is the result of a confluence of events. Event #1- Several years ago, I tasted a sparkling dry pear mead. It was the best mead I’ve ever tasted, before or since. Event #2- Watching farmers struggle to sell their sand pears every summer for several years. Event #3- Reading a couple of articles about artisan cider making and how the majority of heritage apples were for cider making and preserves, not necessarily eating fresh, and thinking about how the local sand pears are so much better for cooking than eating fresh. Event #4- My husband brings home 20# of pears from a friends’ tree, and then we went and picked up 20 more. And we didn’t even have to pick them! Event #5- A facebook plea for brewing equipment results in a loan of a 5-gallon carboy and airlock.
So after reading every website on the internet about making pear cider, it was time to dive in. My husband bought yeast, yeast nutrient, campden tablets, a large food-quality bucket and a straining bag at the local brewing store. Then we just had to figure out how to grind and press the pears.
I dithered about this process for a couple weeks, trying to find the best way to press the pears without a cider press. One evening I peeked at the baskets of pears ripening and saw some soft spots and a few fruit flies. So that evening the kids and I cut up 40 pounds of pears and used my meat grinder to puree the pears. It worked really well.
After tipping the ground pears into the straining bag, the kids and I took turns squeezing the bag against a broiler pan over the bucket. Then my husband came home and had a great idea- he placed a heavy cutting board over the straining bag, and sat on it! It worked perfectly. We got a little over 2 gallons of juice from 40# of pears. Then we added the yeast nutrient, a campden tablet to sterilize the raw pear juice, and put the lid tightly on the bucket for 24 hours.
The next evening I started the yeast, added the yeast to the pear juice, and put the mixture in the carboy with the airlock. Our yeast is supposed to work well with high ambient temperatures, so we put the carboy in the laundry room next to the deep freeze. Now, we wait! If this turns out well, then hopefully we can put this batch in bottles and fill the carboy again before the end of pear season.
Have you ever brewed anything alcoholic from scratch? What did you tackle first? How did it turn out?